One of the world's biggest cruise companies, Norwegian Cruise Line, is spending more than $8 billion on six new ships.
As the cruise industry struggles its way out of Covid-19 the company reports strong interest from this market and says the massive investment reflects its confidence in the sector.
While smaller than others in the company's fleet, the new Prima class ships are still able to hold up to 3215 guests at double occupancy.
But at 142,500 gross tonnes and nearly 300m long, the new ships will have much more space per passenger than competing companies, says Norwegian, the world's fourth-biggest cruise company by capacity.
"Despite not having sailed in more than a year, we never stopped working and innovating, we never once pressed pause," said Harry Sommer, Norwegian's president and chief executive.
"In fact, we doubled down on our brand investment. Not only will we begin cruising this July, we're so proud and so incredibly happy to announce the start of an exciting new chapter.
"The July cruises will be in the Greek Isles and Caribbean with limited capacity and all guests and crew members are required to be vaccinated on bookings through at least the end of October."
While it doesn't have immediate plans to deploy the new Prima class of ships into this market, Sommer said all regions of the world would be considered when the vessels, worth just under US$1 billion ($1.38b) each, enter service from 2023.
He told a briefing that constraints around Sydney had previously limited the number and size of ships that could be operated in that key port but said there were other ports the company could look at.
Pre-pandemic, New Zealand was one of the fastest-growing cruise markets for those flying to other countries to meet ships and the growing number of cruise companies resuming voyages are targeting this market.
At this stage there is no timeline for a restart of cruising from this country where the Government is taking a cautious approach to the industry, associated with major Covid-19 outbreaks globally early last year.
Sommer said early in the design process the company had an option of 5500-passenger ships but ''I think going slightly smaller was the right decision''.
At its last earnings update, Norwegian said it was experiencing "robust future demand" with bookings for the first half of next year ahead of 2019 bookings.
It suffered a US$1.4b loss in the first quarter and is burning through about US$190m in cash a month although as at March 31 it had cash or cash equivalents of US$3.5b.
Sommer said the new ships were designed from scratch, and engines would be located around the middle of them meaning more space at the stern to make the most of sea views.
Located on deck eight, Ocean Boulevard at 4087sq m metres, wraps around the entire deck, allowing passengers to walk around the entire ship.
The vessels now being built in Marghera, Italy by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri feature hull artwork designed by Italian graffiti artist Manuel Di Rita, known commonly as "Peeta".
For the first time on any NCL vessel, the hull art extends to the forward superstructure of the ship.
Architects that helped design Norwegian Prima include Italian designer Piero Lissoni and powerhouse architectural firms Rockwell Group, SMC Design, Tillberg Design of Sweden, YSA DESIGN and Miami-based Studio Dado which conceptualised and composed the aesthetic of various restaurants, staterooms and public areas on board.
''The name 'Prima'. which means 'first' in Italian, is a natural fit that ties into our legacy of firsts in the industry and a fitting tribute to our new Italian shipbuilding partners at Fincantieri,'' said Sommer.
Giuseppe Bono, chief executive of Fincantieri, said the Norwegian order was positive for the industry.
''As we emerge from this global crisis, this announcement marks a strong sign of hope for the cruise sector.''
• Silversea Cruises this week announced it would begin its return to service in the Galápagos Islands aboard new ship Silver Origin, which arrived in San Cristobal on April 30.
Full vaccinations will be mandatory for guests and crew embarking Silver Origin from June 19, forming what the company says is part of a comprehensive, multi-layered set of science-backed protocols that will help to safeguard the health and safety of guests, crew, and visited communities.